The extent of commissioner Roger Goodell's power over appeals reportedly has created a wedge between the NFLPA and NFL in the two sides' HGH talks. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Peaking out from the harsh spotlight Major League Baseball's Biogenesis scandal has cast on performance-enhancing drugs and human growth hormone treatments, the NFL and NFLPA appeared to be nearing a landmark agreement on HGH testing. That momentum has stalled of late, and on Thursday, leaders from both sides traded shots, blaming the other party for bringing a once-promising collaboration to a halt.
NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth emailed USA Today on Thursday asking the NFL to drop its insistence on commissioner Roger Goodell maintaining power in the appeals process.
Adolpho Birch, NFL senior vice president of law and labor policy, followed with a statement accusing the NFLPA of having "buyer's remorse."
“NFL players two years ago overwhelmingly agreed to HGH testing and to continuing the Commissioner’s longstanding disciplinary authority in cases where a player is found to have violated the law by a judge or jury,” Birch said in a statement.
“The union’s latest demand has nothing to do with appeals from positive drug tests, nothing to do with ensuring a level playing field and nothing to do with keeping players safe from dangerous substances. It is simply a case of buyer’s remorse, and an effort to renegotiate part of a long-term agreement that they have now decided they don’t like.
“The union knows that HGH testing is the right thing to do for our game, for its membership, and for the millions of people who look to the NFL and NFL players to set the example for fair and exciting play. It is time for the NFLPA to stop the delay tactics, to move forward for the good of the game and players, and stop focusing on protecting people that break the law.”
NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah fired off a reply to Birch's statement via the union's website and Twitter that included a PDF of a document signed by union executive director DeMaurice Smith but not Goodell.
"The only case of buyer's remorse is the attached letter that the NFL agreed to weeks ago. Our signature is on it. Sign it, like you agreed to, and we start drawing blood from players immediately. Your refusal to sign it confirms that the only thing you care about is power."
In an interview with NFL.com, Birch said the league has made concessions regarding a population study, third-party arbitration in regard to positive tests, and banning game-day blood testing. According to NFL.com, Birch's claim contradicts a union source who accused the league of delaying the population study by insisting on an overall agreement before starting the collection process.
The source added that the players "never agreed" to yield any appeal power to Goodell and that the issue isn't about protecting rule-breakers -- it's only to protect the players' rights to have discipline reviewed.
The stalemate might boil down to Goodell's role. NFL.com cites NFLPA sources saying the union leadership does not believe it can sell its membership on letting Goodell have ultimate power of any aspect of HGH testing following his handling of the Saints' bounty investigation and suspensions.
The NFL previously emphasized that it would want a comprehensive agreement on the overall drug policy before starting the population study, but Birch said the league has softened its stance there, saying only an agreement on the PED portion of the policy was necessary to start the collection process.